Many blockchain analysts and experts believe that crypto adoption and integration will only be possible on a grand scale when major multinational companies jump on the proverbial bandwagon.

But did you know that some of the world’s largest companies are already planning and plotting for this eventuality, even if they’re publically criticizing cryptocurrencies? (We’re looking at you, Google, Facebook, and Mastercard).

Did you know that the Bank of America already has almost 50 blockchain patents, just in case?

When talking to one of the financial industry’s leading news websites, Fortune, back in January, the Bank of America’s chief technology officer, Catherine Bessant said:

bank-of-america-icon-png“We’ve got just under 50 patents in the blockchain/distributed ledger space. While we’ve not found large-scale opportunities, we want to be ahead of it, we want to be prepared.”

 

They are not the only large-scale company that has secured blockchain-related patents.

Major multi-national companies might not be shouting crypto from the rooftops at this moment but they are preparing for greater adoption of blockchain technologies. They can’t afford to miss the boat.

2018 Global Blockchain Patent Enterprise Ranking

When the 2018 Global Blockchain Patent Enterprise Ranking was released in September, it unearthed some interesting data.

Some of the largest companies in the world have already secured a myriad of blockchain patents. The list includes the likes of Alibaba, Google, IBM, MasterCard, Visa, Sony, PayPal, Nasdaq, Microsoft, Facebook, just to name a few who are already ahead of the curve in relation to blockchain related patents.

Blockchain patent ranking
The top 20 companies with blockchain patents. The Chinese name at number one is Alibaba – the so-called “Chinese Amazon.”

Let’s explore the exact nature of these blockchain patents held by the world’s mega-companies. And what possibly end-game uses do they have for their use of blockchain technology.

Alibaba

Blockchain patents: 90

alibaba blockchain patents

Out of the 406 blockchain patents that were applied for in 2017, Alibaba was responsible for 10% of them, bringing its total blockchain patent count to 90. The CEO of Alibaba’s financial sister-company Ant Financial, Jing Xiandong, actually went as far as stating that:

“We are the most patented company in the world of blockchain technology.”

At this point, Alibaba has used their blockchain patents in a number of ways such as tracking cross-border shipments, securing medical data and even for fighting against food fraud.

The vast majority of Alibaba’s blockchain patents revolve around design and utility. One of their most prominent patents is the Ant Financial Blockchain 2.0. It’s an open platform that focuses on self-operation and decentralization.

Alibaba is clearly leading the way for innovative blockchain solutions and is collaborating with a number of companies to further their blockchain developments.

IBM

Blockchain patents: 89

IBM blockchain patents

IBM is right up there with Alibaba for its prolific collection of 89 blockchain patents. In July alone they acquired six patents relating to possible blockchain capabilities. One of their most interesting patent acquisitions from July is Patent 1: 20180198630.

This patent is related to blockchain transactions that can preserve privacy. The patent would enable IBM to execute confidential transactions via smart contracts.

Further reading: Smart Contracts, Explained in the Simplest Possible Terms

They’ve also filed patents for tracking medical items which could optimize patient safety in a hospital environment. 

IBM is at the forefront of acquiring blockchain patents, most of which are system-based and facilitate smoother blockchain operations, as you would expect from one of the world’s largest tech companies.

MasterCard

Blockchain patents: 80

Mastercard blockchain patents

MasterCard is another major company with a variety of blockchain patents, mostly, as you would expect, pertaining to payment transactions.

The credit card giants filed for a patent in July that would encode an image of your payment card to a blockchain. Theoretically, you could then pay with your card in a store, using a point-of-sale device, without actually handing over your card. 

Another patent would allow Mastercard users to upload their travel itineraries to a blockchain, allowing shops and vendors the chance to bid for your business.

Yet another aims to partition a blockchain so it could handle and store multiple different types of transactions. 

Mastercard isn’t slowing down on the patents front either. They recently applied for a new patent that could theoretically launch a fractional reserve banking system for crypto.

When they do decide to delve headlong into crypto transactions, they will be ready to carve out a decent slice of the payments market.

Microsoft

Blockchain patents: 20

Microsoft blockchain patents

When it comes to mega-companies, few exist on the scale of Microsoft. Earlier this year, they filed for two blockchain patents that show the company is looking into the possibility of enhanced Trusted Execution Environments (TEE).

A TEE is a secure area of a main processor. It’s easy to get swamped by the technical jargon used by these patents and the technologies themselves.

Breaking it down, Microsoft might want to use its TEE patent to offer higher levels of security for a mobile operating system or its cloud system Azure.

Google

Blockchain patents: 22

Google blockchain patents

You would assume that Google isn’t much of a blockchain advocate judging by its stance on marketing ICOs and other crypto-based products. But the search engine king has obtained its own blockchain patents to ensure it is not left out in the cold.

Google applied for the patent US20170177898A1 back in June 2018, which was granted in July this year. The blockchain patent aims to stamp out data tampering:

“A system, method or computer readable storage medium configured for storing encrypted data on a blockchain. To write additional data in a blockchain, a request is received at a computing node.”

In layman’s terms, Google wants to use a blockchain system to verify any data stored on its database. This will safeguard the integrity of the information and will flag the info when it is altered or deleted.

Conclusion

The main focus of many blockchain patents applied for by major companies largely revolve around the authentication of existing data and the verification of transactions.

It’s quite ironic, however, that some companies such as Google and Facebook appear to be against crypto and blockchain adoption in the public sphere, but behind closed doors are snapping up as many blockchain-related patents as possible.

decentralizedblockchain projects

Could the world’s idle computers make the $200 billion cloud computing industry obsolete?

In the final years of the Obama administration, it seemed that the world was witnessing the emergence of an odd alliance between the largest establishment tech companies and the traditionally anti-establishment community of independent techies. The highest-profile case involved Apple and other major corporations siding with civil rights organizations to advocate against weakening device encryption on behalf of law enforcement, and it led to a hope that these companies were finally seeing the profit potential in having secure, satisfied customers. That hope has now evaporated in the face of continuous betrayals of user trust, and rather than take it lying down, tech users are looking into alternative solutions that put them in control.

The recently passed federal Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act, or the CLOUD Act, makes it perfectly clear why this shift away from self-interested stakeholders is so necessary. The new law was motivated by a legal demand for Microsoft to hand user data to US law enforcement, even though that data was stored outside US borders and, thus, in a different legal jurisdiction. At first, it seemed that Microsoft was planning to stand up for privacy and national sovereignty by opposing the demand in court—but, predictably, the corporation rolled over just as soon as it deemed that its own interests were protected.

The goal of the CLOUD Act is for the US to be able to compel any company that does business in the country to provide information to US law enforcement, even if that information is not actually stored within the US. If it’s successful, a company’s willingness to fight will become essentially irrelevant. It makes all cloud computing and cloud storage companies suspect, simply by virtue of being cloud computing companies.

Groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union believe it also could allow US law enforcement to seize information in foreign jurisdictions because those regions have more lenient privacy laws than the US itself. The reverse, in which foreign law enforcement agencies operating under more stringent rules than the US, could gain access to protected information stored in the country, is also a major concern.

These fears are compounded by a basic lack of trust in American-based tech companies that theoretically act as advocates on behalf of their customers—many of which have abysmal records of actually following through. The concern isn’t just that cloud usage data could be given up involuntarily to an outside party, but that such data could be intentionally and proactively packaged and sold to an outside party. Even professed mistakes can have shocking implications for personal boundaries and the expectation that modern life comes with any privacy at all.

With traditional network technology, there was no way to cut these large service companies out while still remaining as agile and profitable as the competition, or while maintaining the features that modern users demand. Today, however, advanced and emerging ideas, like the blockchain technology behind Bitcoin, are chipping away at the built-in advantage held by moneyed corporations. They’re empowering startups and even individuals to automate the bottlenecks that previously made large third parties a necessity for all cloud services. Modern blockchain-focused startups are developing services that make it possible for individuals to administer the crucial aspects of cloud computing securely, without involving a third-party service provider that weakens security and charges an extra fee.

Subutai, a blockchain-based cloud computing service, allows users to buy and sell computing time to create the exact amount of computing power they need for a given job, without having to invest in all that power as hardware. Users can sell their idle computing time over the service in exchange for blockchain-validated digital tokens, which can be redeemed to purchase time on other idle computers hooked up to the service. Beyond creating ad-hoc cloud computing networks without the need for a corporate overseer, this model also essentially makes computing downtime useful by allowing it to subsidize the extra power needed for later, tougher projects.

Another blockchain-based startup, called AXEL, is similarly trying to wrest a portion of the cloud from large stakeholders—this time, cloud storage. By letting users set up their own remote storage devices, rather than paying an exorbitant monthly fee for access to a terabyte of storage space, AXEL users simply can buy a cheap terabyte drive, plug it in to their desktop at home and link it to their AXEL account—at that point, they have an entirely private connection to that HDD that allows full cloud access without even the possibility of outside interference or surveillance by the service provider. And if you want another five terabytes of cloud storage? It’s as easy as buying five more terabytes of storage and hooking them up to the network. Since you own the drives, moving a file onto a linked drive takes zero upload time—it’s in your cloud-linked folders, after all, and thus has nowhere else it needs to go.

That sort of versatility, where freezing out large corporations doesn’t just preserve features but actually expands them, is why the blockchain has such potential to upend the cloud space. Large cloud services corporations, from Amazon to Google to Microsoft, have reached their current level of dominance not by satisfying their customers but by correctly pointing out that they were the only game in town—but now, the users can start to provide an alternate solution all their own.

It remains to be seen whether these companies will notice the impending danger to their business model in time to act—or, more to the point, whether there is any action they could take that would make them desirable in the face of growing privacy issues and ever-more-user friendly competition.

Corporate cloud service providers are facing an existential crisis and given their increasingly aggressive practices and pricing, it seems as though they don’t even know it. New challengers in tech are proving more than happy to show them.

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Use our news to inform cryptocurrency trading decisions, stay up-to-date on happenings in the industry, and more!

Electrum Publishes Proof “Electrum Pro” is Bitcoin Stealing Malware
Via Twitter yesterday, Electrum promised to publish proof that “Electrum Pro” is bitcoin stealing malware. This morning they published their proof on Github. Members of the community are advising if you used this software to move your coins now. BlockExplorer writer Armin Davis independently verified these claims.

ICO Competition With The Highest Prize Ever
This year ICO Engine is hosting an ICO Race 7 June, 2018 in Palazzo dei Congressi, Lugano. “Each ICO will have a 10-minute pitch in front of a qualified panel of judges who will make their evaluation based on: Solution of the problem, Business and Token sale model, Token Sale terms, Team, Pitch.” They go on to say, “ICOs will be ranked based on the evaluation given by the judges. Prizes are intended as purchase of the company’s tokens at the private sale price.” ICOs can register to be a part of the competition here.

Microsoft is Serious About Blockchain With Major Announcements and PRs
Despite the recent negative statements made by Bill Gates about Bitcoin, Microsoft’s interest in blockchain has been growing. Take this Microsoft Azure press release for example, “Simplifying blockchain app development with Azure Blockchain Workbench“. Microsoft’s Azure team is also now participating in NY Blockchain Week, according to WeTalkCoins.com.

Facebook’s New Blockchain Team Will Be Led by Coinbase Board Member David Marcus
Social media conglomerate Facebook has announced that it is establishing a new blockchain research team, according to BlockExplorer’s David Murray, and it will be led by a member of the Coinbase board of directors: David Marcus.

Image courtesy of Carty Sewill, http://cartyisme.com/

After its decision to stop accepting bitcoin for some transactions last week, Microsoft has reversed the decision, stating that it had ensured lower amounts of bitcoin are usable. This is apparently due to some sort of agreement between Microsoft and BitPay. Though the nature of the agreement is unknown.  The reason for the original decision was the high volatility and transaction fees on the bitcoin network. So one could infer that whatever the agreement is, it solves those issues somehow.

Microsoft’s decision good news for Steam?

In an earlier blog post, BitPay stated that Microsoft was using it to manage its bitcoin transactions. Bitpay is the same provider that Valve’s Steam used before it ceased its bitcoin transactions last year. Does this mean that Steam will be able to reach a similar agreement with BitPay and reinstate its own bitcoin-based transactions? Is the agreement not available to other BitPay customers? If it is the latter, what exactly is the agreement? Is it that Microsoft’s transactions are worth enough to BitPay that it is willing to lower its profit margin?

Fallout from the rapid-fire stance changes

The bitcoin community seems rather unsure of its opinion of Microsoft over its quick changes in stance towards bitcoin. With some users stating that this move was a power play and others thankful for the decision’s reversal.

Featured image from Wikipedia

Microsoft has temporarily removed the ability to directly buy products from its store with bitcoin. However, the ability to credit an account with bitcoin is still active (for some, though it could be a sign of the rollout of removing Bitcoin payment options). The decision is reportedly due to the extremely large fluctuations bitcoin has experienced recently and the ever-increasing transaction costs. It is unclear whether or not this is an indication that Microsoft intends to suspend all bitcoin transactions in the future. Notably, by accepting Bitcoin for deposits, they don’t have to deal with the volatility in the Bitcoin price. If users feel the fees are too high, they just won’t top up their accounts with BTC during that time. Back in 2016, a similar scare occurred where Microsoft temporarily removed Bitcoin as a payment option. They denied doing so after – no such denial has been forthcoming this time.

Bitcoin dropped from $20, 000 to $14,000 in a matter of days. Image from coinmarketcap

Microsoft is not the first company to suspend bitcoin-based purchases

Steam took similar actions in December last year by removing the ability to purchase games with bitcoin, stating it was due to “High fees and volatility” referencing a 25% drop in price over a few days, and fees jumping from $0.20 to $20 a transaction.  Though it is unclear whether or not the high fee motivation included the large fee bitpay included on transactions.

Potential Solutions

There are a few solutions to this; Such as selecting a different currency to transact with, such as Bitcoin Cash or Ripple. As services such as shapeshift.io and changelly exist, this should not inconvenience those holding bitcoin or other altcoins, as the services allow for instant conversion from one coin to another (at a higher fee than some exchanges, unfortunately). Another possible solution is to continue to accept bitcoin no matter the fee and to convert it to fiat as quickly as possible to avoid too much network fluctuation. Though this does not protect customers from high transaction fees.

Featured image from Wikipedia